US Spy Chiefs Face Congress Amid Spying Row

USA NSA and spy chiefs.US National Security Agency (NSA) and spy chiefs are to appear before the House Intelligence Committee for hearing to defend angry European allies’ accusations that the United States is spying on their leaders and citizens.

The most prominent target appears to have been German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose mobile phone was allegedly tapped by the NSA.

More than any previous disclosures from materials given to journalists by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the reports of spying on close US allies have forced the White House to promise reforms and even acknowledge that America’s electronic surveillance may have gone too far.

“We recognize there needs to be additional constraints on how we gather and use intelligence,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday.

US Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate’s intelligence committee, joined the ranks of critics on Monday, expressing outrage at US intelligence collection on allies, and piqued that her committee was not informed.

“With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of US allies – including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany -let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed,” said Feinstein, who appeared to confirm US spying on Merkel’s communications since 2002.

The White House is conducting a review of intelligence programmes prompted by disclosures about top secret spying programmes to the media by Snowden, who is living in Russia, out of reach of US attempts to arrest him.

NSA Director General Keith Alexander, NSA Deputy Director Chris Inglis, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Deputy Attorney General James Cole will testify at an open hearing of the House Intelligence Committee at 1:30 p.m. (1730 GMT) on Tuesday.

Their testimony will cover NSA programs and potential changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which regulates electronic eavesdropping.

“The House Intelligence Committee continues to assess a number of proposals to improve transparency and strengthen privacy protections to further build the confidence of the American public in our nation’s FISA programs,” said Susan Phalen, spokeswoman for Republican committee Chairman Mike Rogers.

The Senate Intelligence Committee conducted a similar hearing in late September at which Feinstein said proposals included putting limits on the NSA’s phone metadata program, prohibiting collection of the content of phone calls, and legally requiring that intelligence analysts have a “reasonable articulable suspicion” that a phone number was associated with terrorism in order to query the database.

Lasting Impact On Relations

The director of the Europe Programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies and a former deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe, Heather Conley, said the administration needed to be more proactive in handling the uproar.

“The administration has been completely reactive to these leaks,” she said.

The allegations of US spying on Merkel and other leaders are likely to have a lasting impact on relations, Conley said.

In the last several years, Europeans have been disappointed with the Obama administration over its failure to close the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and its use of drone strikes to kill terrorism suspects. The spectacle of the recent federal government shutdown also dented US prestige in Europe.

“It’s just raising really big doubts, uncertainties and question marks about not only the president’s leadership but whether the United States is a reliable ally,” Conley said.

Channels TV Joins Hillary Clinton’s Last Global Townterview

Channels Television on Tuesday flew the African flag in the live and last ‘Global Townterview’ with outgoing US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

The Secretary of State had her 59th Global ‘Townterview’ at the Newseum in Washington DC, her last in which she engaged young people around the world including young Nigerian professionals who were gathered inside ChannelsTV studio for the live interaction.

The event which was streamed live on the internet on YouTube had in attendance BBC London, MBC Beirut Lebanon, NDTV, New Delhi, India, NHK Tokyo, Japan, NTN24 Bogota, Colombia and representing Africa was Channels Television from Nigeria.

Nigeria’s 2015 Election

When Channels TV correspondent Maupe Ogun, asked the outgoing Secretary if she can pinpoint any African country that has strived to develop its institutions as President Obama advised in his speech when he visited Ghana in 2009, Mrs Clinton replied; “both politically and economically, I see progress happening in Africa.”

She described the successful transition in Malawi and the peaceful re-election of Ellen John Sirleaf in Liberia and the just concluded election in Ghana as big moves that showed that the countries are building their political institutions and the voice of people are hearkened to.

“Nigeria is a very important country in Africa and even the world. It really matters how well the next general election goes. Whether it is free and fair. It really matters whether the endemic corruption is finally pursued. So it is important that everybody in Nigeria does not feel like they are going to be left out” she stated.

The crisis in Mali is one issue Madam Secretary spoke passionately about; she noted how important it is for peace to rain in the country and the region as a whole.

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s feat in the first four years of the Obama administration cannot be over-emphasized and this has aroused speculations if she would be running for president in the next US election.

But responding to a question on her plans for the US Presidential in 2016, she responded that “I am not thinking anything about that now. I am working on concluding my tenure as the Secretary of State. I am also working on my 20 years of sleep deprivation.”

When two uniformly dressed radio dee-jays from Australia asked her what she would advise anyone to include on their CV to appeal for her office, the former First Lady of the United States cheerfully stated that “education, good looks and ability to meet people are the essentials needed to be a Secretary of States.”

The Townterview is a mix of a town hall and a television interview. The concept was first introduced by the Secretary when she entered office as a way to broaden people to people engagement.

Mrs Clinton is expected to resign as the US Secretary of State on Friday, 1st of February.

Former aspirant to White House, Senator John Kerry, was on Tuesday, confirmed as the next US Secretary of State.

Jonathan congratulates Obama on his re-election

President Goodluck Jonathan has on behalf of himself, the Federal Government and the people of Nigeria congratulated President Barack Obama on his success in winning re-election in Tuesday’s presidential elections in the United States.

President Jonathan welcomed President Obama’s victory in a tightly contested presidential race as “an endorsement by the good people of United States of his leadership, progressive world view and the very good work he has done in the past four years towards ending global economic depression and fostering global peace and security.”

According to the statement, “Nigeria, the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union enjoyed very cordial and productive relations with the Obama Administration in his first term” and it adds that “President Jonathan looks forward to continuing to build on Nigeria’s and Africa’s developmental collaboration with the United States in the next four years.”

The President also noted that he is looking forward in particular to the further “strengthening of US-Nigeria bilateral relations and the US-Nigeria Bi-National Commission which was established in President Obama’s first term as the primary platform for the promotion of greater trade and economic cooperation between both countries as well as bilateral collaboration in other areas.”

President Jonathan also called on millions of people across the world; especially those in developing nations who watched the beauty and strength of democracy unfold in the United States presidential elections to come to a greater and better appreciation of democracy as the key to building peaceful, stable and progressive societies.

President Jonathan wishes President Obama continued good health and God’s blessings and guidance as he prepares for his inauguration in January for a second term in office as the President of the United States of America.